Whole Foods signs lease for Frisco store

Is Whole Foods coming to Frisco? PHOTO COURTESY WHOLE FOODS MARKET.

Company is aiming to open 20 stores across the country this year

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —While Frisco is just starting a public process to get feedback on the possibility of developing a new grocery store on the town-owned interstate parcel, Whole Foods Market announced Wednesday that it has signed a lease for a new store, subject to review and approval by local authorities.

“It’s official. We’re definitely taking a look at it,” said spokesman Ben Friedland (formerly with Copper Mountain). More info on the town’s process is online at the Frisco Government website.

You can also get updates on a Whole Foods Market Twitter Feed, or check out a Facebook Whole Foods booster page.

The lease is with Boulder-based Brynn Grey Partners LTD, an entity controlled by local developer David O’Neil. The deal has been in the works for a year and was announced as part of a Whole Foods Market quarterly earnings statement. Seven other new stores, averaging about 30,000 square-feet each, are also in the works. All are in urban or suburban locations.

The lease with Brynn Grey locks in the Frisco location, at least for now, which some local boosters see as a business coup during a time when commercial development is still dampened as a result of the overall real estate slowdown.

Whole Foods would be an anchor tenant on the parcel, located near the Frisco Transfer Station on Lusher Court. So far there’s been little discussion of what other tenants might be housed in the new retail area.

Once the town gets informal feedback from residents, a formal planning review could begin. If the store is approved, the parcel could either be sold or leased to O’Neil’s company, which would then rent it to Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods is in an expansion mode, opening 18 new stores in 2011, averaging about 39,000 square feet each. The company’s earnings report shows an average development cost of $9.8 million per store.

Right now, Whole Foods operates about 300 stores across the country. In an earnings call last May, company executives said their long-term target is 1,000 stores. Overall, the trend is toward smaller stores, especially in urban settings, where large commercial real estate spaces are hard to find.

Other than existing stores on the Front Range, Whole Foods is also preparing to open a mid-sized store in Basalt. That project has also been in the works for several years and was halted for several months when the developer building the store failed. A new developer stepped in, and the store is scheduled to open this summer.

Some of the Pitkin County news coverage of the Basalt store suggests the store could generate more than 100 new jobs, but  Friedland said it’s too early to talk about specifics for Frisco. The number of store associates would depend on the exact size and configuration, he said.

While the new store has been touted as having the potential to create jobs and generate sales tax revenue, it’s far from clear what the net impact would be.

A voice of caution came from Mark Belkin, organizing director of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 7 representing local Safeway workers, along with about 25,000 other union members in Colorado and Wyoming.

Belkin said any new jobs have to weighed against potential losses of existing jobs at the Frisco Safeway. Belkin emphasized that the Safeway employees enjoy good health benefits and that their jobs are legally protected under the company’s contract with the union.

“Those types of jobs are quickly disappearing,” Belkin said

Similarly, estimates of sales tax revenues have to be calculated by including possible losses in revenues at other food retailers, including Safeway and Wal-Mart, although Belkin said that Whole Foods and Safeway are not necessarily direct competitors, since Whole Foods is a generally seen as a high-end grocer.

“Safeway is a competitive organization, been in the food business for decades,” Belkin said.

Those calculations will be part of the process the town will go through before approving the development, deciding if that’s the best and highest use for a valuable parcel owned by the citizens of Frisco



5 thoughts on “Whole Foods signs lease for Frisco store

  1. I have enjoyed shopping at WF… and I still have mixed feelings about their presence in Frisco. My concerns are related to the existing businesses, the local “community” feel that Frisco has been pushing for… and just generally the impact of another company plopping down along I-70.

    Then I read this: “John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market is an admirer of WalMart and says ‘What a great, great company! WalMart has single handedly driven down retail prices across America.’ He also approves of WalMart’s policy of ‘crushing the parasitical unions’. Despite being in Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For in America’, Whole Foods Market is as anti union as WalMart, and has been criticised for firing two workers involved in unionising the Madison, Wisconsin store. With respect to its suppliers, Whole Foods stores in the US stock tomatoes from one of the most notorious Florida sweatshop producers and has ignored an appeal from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay an extra penny a pound for these tomatoes.”

    SEE THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.corporatewatch.org/​?lid=3066

    So, while I like the idea of an influx of cash to the county, and potentially new jobs (even if they are the typically lower wages)… but does Frisco really want to look like a Denver suburb? or do we need this for the County to survive these down cycles in the economy.

    I just don’t know…..

  2. I think second home owners probably will, since many of them might shop at Whole Foods at home, and tourists will, since many folks on vacation will splurge somewhat on food. I’m a full-time resident of Summit County and I’ll shop there for specialty items, just like I used to do when I lived in Boulder.

  3. It might be worth noting that David O’Neil is not a local developer. Brynn Grey is out of Boulder. As is David. He has a house here and certainly is in Breckenridge and Frisco quite a bit but his main residence and offices is Boulder.

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